The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has had a presence in Grafton since the town's founding when their line reached the area in the early 1850s. In 1911 the B&O constructed a new, large station and an adjacent hotel to handle the growing rail traffic going through Grafton. This opulent, Beaux Arts style building contained B&O offices, ticket and luggage departments, a passenger lobby, and a restaurant. It prospered during the first half of the nineteenth century, but by the 1960s it had entered a steep decline. Passenger service at the station was discontinued in 1971, and by 1988 the building lay vacant. Since 1998 the Vandalia Heritage Foundation has been working to restore and repurpose the station. It is included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Grafton Downtown Commercial Historic District, created in 1984.
The town of Grafton was
founded in the 1850s as a direct result of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
(B&O) building its line through the area. Around 1852 a building called the
Grafton House was constructed to serve as both the train station and hotel for
passengers traveling on the line. By the early 1900s, growing rail traffic made
this structure insufficient for the area’s needs. In 1910 a section of land
along East Main Street was acquired to build a new station and a new hotel.
The B&O Railroad
Station was the first of the two structures to be built, and was completed in
1911. This imposing, three-story structure cost $125,000 to construct and was
noted for its opulence. It was designed in the Beaux Arts style and utilized
brick, granite, and ornamental terra cotta for the exterior, and included
marble floors and tall columns in the interior. It interestingly had a façade on
both the side facing Main Street, and the side facing the railroad. The first
floor was divided into an East Wing, a West Wing, and a Grand Hall in the
center. The new station contained local B&O offices, baggage and ticket
offices, a large passenger lobby, and a restaurant. The Willard Hotel opened
next to the station a year later to house passengers traveling on the line.
For the first few
decades the train station flourished as traffic on the B&O increased. At
its peak in the 1920s there were over thirty passenger trains passing through
Grafton every day. After World War II, passenger traffic began a permanent
steady decline due to the rise of highways and airlines. In 1971 the B&O
discontinued passenger service at the Grafton station altogether, but the
building remained in use as the division office. During the 1980s CSX
Transportation, the successor to the B&O, transferred local operations from
Grafton to Jacksonville, Florida; both the station and the nearby Willard Hotel
were left vacant as a result. Cargo trains continue to travel on the line but
do not utilize the station.
Around 1998 the
Vandalia Heritage Foundation was established and began working to redevelop
both structures. The roof of the station was soon replaced to prevent more
damage to the interior. Over the years Vandalia has slowly worked to restore
and renovate the B&O Station for the purpose of adaptive reuse. Various
ideas have been floated for the building’s future use. Currently there are
plans to create a space available to rent for special events, a music venue,
retail shops, offices, and even residential units.